Prior to our calibration, the Honeywell was among the least-accurate HDTVs we've tested this year, and afterward it wasn't much better. The best precalibration picture mode was User with the Warm preset engaged, but it resulted in a very green grayscale--the human eye is most-sensitive to green among all the colors--that plunged deep into blue in dark areas. Our calibration reduced the green tinge and tamed the set's light output somewhat, but we still had to leave it brighter than we'd like to, at 60 footlamberts compared with our standard 40 ftl. That's because the nonadjustable, overly dark gamma made the entire image seem too dull at 40 ftl, and really hurt the image quality. Of course, in our darkened room the resulting brighter image caused some eyestrain, especially during bright scenes (see below), but it was better than the alternative. Check out the bottom of this blog post for our complete picture settings.
Our comparison this time around included another budget model, the Haier HL47K, along with a few more-expensive 120Hz displays, including the Sharp LC-46D85U, the Sony KDL-46W4100, and the Samsung LN52A650, and as always, for reference, the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma.
This time we checked out the Journey to the Center of the Earth Blu-ray on our reference PlayStation 3.Black level: Producing a deep shade of black is not in the Honeywell's repertoire. After calibration, its dark areas were even lighter than those of the Haier, for example in the night sky above Iceland as professor Anderson and his son drive toward Reykjavik, which looked more like twilight than the deep night seen on the better displays. Details in the shadows, such as Anderson's hair and dark jacket as they sit in the car, appeared duller and less distinct than on the other displays as well, including the Haier again, an issue we blame on the Honeywell's dark gamma. In fact, the dark gamma made dark to midbright areas appear significantly duller than we'd like to see, even after we increased the TV's light output beyond our standard level for calibration, as described above.
On the flip side that higher light output, which we needed to use to make up for the darker gamma, caused eyestrain when the TV displayed bright areas, such as the overcast sky in Chapter 5 or the rainbow waterfalls in Chapter 10. Of course, watching in a room with more ambient light would have alleviated this issue, but we prefer watching movies in the dark. Unfortunately, with the Honeywell that's not as pleasant an experience as with most other HDTVs.
Color accuracy: While primary colors were relatively close to the HD standard, the Honeywell's uneven grayscale and lackluster saturation made colors appear worse than we expected even on a budget set. Skin tones in brighter scenes, like Hannah's face during the mountain climb in Chapter 5, looked good enough, but the bluish tinge in dark areas caused it to appear darker and less natural in scenes like the indoor lighting of her house in Chapter 4. Black and near-black areas looked extremely blue as well, and in colorful scenes such as the building of the wind-propelled raft in Chapter 12, which included lush green plants and a weird rosy sky, the hues didn't appear as rich or saturated as the other displays.
Video processing: The Honeywell features dejudder processing that cannot be turned off, and the result is a smoothing effect that's extremely noticeable in most kinds of program material, especially film. We're not fans of the effect, so we wish it could be turned off. In general, it makes motion seem too video-like, and cameras all seem as if they're on rails. We understand some viewers may prefer the smooth look, however, so it's worth comparing the Honeywell's smoothing with that of other dejudder-equipped 120Hz displays, including the Sony and the Samsung.
Those two models have adjustable smoothness settings but the Honeywell's dejudder cannot be adjusted, and it seemed to provide a smoothing equivalent to the most potent settings on the other two displays. In our experience, more smoothing produces more unnatural artifacts, and the Altura MLX was no exception. We noticed numerous incidents of breakup, for example, where parts of a fast-moving object would seem to detach from the rest. Sean's shirt briefly broke apart as he moved across the screen in Chapter 12, and his whole body seemed to do so when he moved offscreen in Chapter 11. These kinds of artifacts were frequent enough to prove distracting, and we doubt many critical viewers would stand for them. Compared with the Sony and Samsung, the Altura MLX exhibited more frequent artifacts--the two examples we just gave, for example, didn't look as noticeable on either of them.
All three seemed to share similar instances of a different artifact, which we liken to a halo that blurs the background that borders a foreground object. We saw this issue in Chapter 10, for example, when the three explorers enter the cave of waterfalls.
One benefit of 120Hz is that it can accept 1080p/24 sources properly to preserve the natural cadence of film without having to perform the 2:3 pull-down process necessary with 60Hz displays. Unfortunately, when we fed the Honeywell a 1080p/24 source from our PS3, it still applied dejudder processing, so this benefit was basically wasted. We could see no difference between 1080p/24 and standard 1080p on this display.
Motion resolution measured about 600 lines, or about average for a 120Hz LCD, and the Honeywell properly deinterlaced both film- and video-based sources. Since it lacks a dot-by-dot aspect ratio setting, it was unable to display every line of 1080i and 1080p sources. As always, while watching program material (as opposed to test patterns), we found it nearly impossible to distinguish between the resolution characteristics, motion or otherwise, of any of the sets in our comparison.
Uniformity: In very dark scenes we noticed that the upper corners appeared a bit brighter than other areas, but otherwise the Honeywell's screen was quite uniform. Off-angle performance was worse than the other displays in our test with the exception of the Haier, however, with dark areas washing out and discoloration setting in quickly.
Bright lighting: As a matte-screened LCD, the Altura MLX did a better job of reducing reflections and ejecting ambient light than the plasma or shiny-screened Samsung LCD, although the latter was better at maintaining black levels in bright rooms.
Standard-definition: The Altura had no trouble resolving every line of the DVD format, and the grass and stones of the bridge in the Detail test shot looked relatively sharp. The TV did a good job cleaning up jaggies in moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag. Noise reduction wasn't the Altura's strong suit--even on the most aggressive setting, it allowed plenty of moving motes and snow in the skies, sunsets, and flowers in our test footage. The Honeywell successfully engaged 2:3 pull-down detection to remove moire from the grandstand behind the racecar.
PC: The Honeywell is one of the few displays we've tested that performs better with an analog VGA connection than via digital HDMI. When connected via analog, the set resolved every detail of a 1,920x1,080-pixel source perfectly, with crisp text and no overscan. When we selected the same resolution via HDMI, however, the lack of a dot-by-dot aspect ratio mode meant the Windows Taskbar, along with the other three extreme edges of our PC desktop, were overscanned off the screen, and we couldn't get them back. Text also looked blocky and lines were similarly imperfect, and the set failed to resolve every line of the source resolution.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6217/6066||Average|
|After color temp||8191/6538||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 566||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 481||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.638/0.332||Good|
|Color of green||0.287/0.61||Good|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.06||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
|Honeywell Altura MLX||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||207.27||206.74||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.27||0.27||N/A|
|Cost per year||$64.15||$63.99||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Average|